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Page last updated at 09:44 GMT, Tuesday, 20 May 2008 10:44 UK

India and Pakistan resume talks

Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, left, and his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir in Islamabad, 20 May
The two sides suspended negotiations in 2007

Top Indian and Pakistani officials have resumed talks in Islamabad to review the two countries' peace process.

The meeting is the first since a new civilian government took over in Pakistan. Talks were postponed after political instability there last year.

They come a day after India said one of its soldiers had been killed in firing across the de facto border. Pakistan has denied any involvement.

Four years of talks have made little headway on key issues such as Kashmir.

'New policy'

Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir opened the talks in Islamabad on Tuesday.

More discussions - between Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi - will follow on Wednesday.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says the visit will review progress made in the last round of the peace process, and prepare for the next stage.

But perhaps more importantly, our correspondent says, Pranab Mukherjee will be meeting senior political leaders to gauge the new government's policy towards India.

Although little progress has been made on the status of the Muslim majority region of Kashmir, which is divided between the two states, relations have improved.

President Pervez Musharraf floated some new proposals on Kashmir.

And he also reduced the infiltration of Islamist militants from Pakistan, who are fighting Indian rule in Kashmir.

The Indians have often blamed these militants for attacks within their country, but they did not do so after recent bombings in the city of Jaipur.

Analysts say the newly elected government is likely to carry on the precedent set by Mr Musharraf, but rifts within Pakistan's new coalition suggest further political instability, and may hinder progress.

'Baseless'

Violence in Indian-controlled Kashmir has reduced markedly since a 2003 ceasefire between India and Pakistan.

But recent firing incidents across the Line of Control and rare allegations of ceasefire breaches underline how fragile the peace is.

Indian army spokesman SD Goswami said there had been "unprovoked" firing from Pakistani troops on Indian posts across the Line of Control in the Poonch area on Monday morning.

Indian troops in Kashmir. File pic.
Indian and Pakistani troops have observed a ceasefire since 2003

A soldier had died after he was hit by shrapnel during the attack, he said.

"There was no firing from this side," said Pakistan's military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas.

It is the second time in less than a week that India's army has accused Pakistani troops of firing across the de facto border.

Last week, Pakistan's army said allegations that its troops had breached the ceasefire were baseless.



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